Fruits in a heart-shaped bowl

Preventing Chronic Health Conditions: You Can Do It!

By Sharon Krispinsky, RN, BSN, CDCES, Chronic Health Program Coordinator for Lee Health

Have you been diagnosed with a chronic health condition such as Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure or Heart Disease? It is estimated that 60% of Americans have a least once chronic health condition and 40% of Americans have two or more. What you might not know, is that many of these chronic health conditions can be avoided by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

What does it mean, “adopting a healthier lifestyle?”

There are several risk factors for developing chronic health conditions, including some that we have the power to change. These include poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol use. With these risk factors, we have a choice. The choices we make on a daily basis can influence our risk in a positive or negative way.

What are some specific general healthy recommendations regarding nutrition and physical activity?

First and foremost, discuss your nutrition and physical activity plan with your physician. Depending on your medical condition, your diet and physical activity plan may need to be tailored to your specific needs. Always, get physician clearance before engaging in any physical activity.

Concerning nutrition, here are some general recommendations:

  • Strive to have five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A serving size of vegetables is ½ cup cooked or 1 cup of raw vegetables. Fruit should be about the size of your fist.
  • Minimize adding salt to foods. Most Americans consume too much salt(sodium). Packaged, processed foods are generally high in salt and are responsible for most of the daily sodium we consume. Aim to prepare more meals at home and try to minimize processed, packaged foods. Use herbs, spices, vinegar and lemon juice to flavor your food instead.
  • Go back to basics and eat whole foods containing a single ingredient or very few simple ingredients. For example, eat an apple or a salad. Spend the bulk of your time in the periphery of the grocery store, especially in produce, not in the center aisles where most processed foods are located.
  • Choose foods low in total fat. When you read a food label, choose foods with 5 grams of total fat or less. Healthful whole foods such as nuts and avocados would be an exception but keep to small portions such as ¼ cup.
  • Consider eating less meat, and more wild caught fish and plant proteins, such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. When eating meat, choose leaner meat choices such as chicken or turkey without the skin. Bake, broil or grill your meat and avoid frying foods.
  • When choosing starchy foods, pick whole grain and whole-wheat products. Examples are whole wheat or whole grain bread, brown rice instead of white, whole-wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
  • When reading food labels, anything listed at 5% or less is considered low. For example, if the sodium is less than 5% on the label, that food is low in sodium. Anything 20% or greater on the label, is considered high. For example, if the total fat is 20%, that is a high fat food item.

There is good news regarding weight loss! Research has demonstrated that even losing as little as 5-7% of your body weight can reduce your risk of developing chronic health conditions, or even reverse a chronic health condition, if you have been diagnosed with one.

Once you have approval by your physician, physical activity is extremely important. It is recommended that we receive 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Broken down, this exercise recommendation equates to 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Examples of physical activity are walking, biking, dancing, and swimming to name a few.

There is even better news…research has demonstrated that you do not have to do 30 minutes of physical activity all at once. You could do three, ten-minute exercise periods, two, fifteen-minute exercise periods, or even six, five-minute exercise periods. What is important is to just move.Exercises for strength, balance and flexibility are also recommended.

I want to bean active manager of my health! So where do I start?

Lee Health Solutions has a variety of programs and clinical experts ready to help you to take control to become healthier. Our professionals take the time to listen, get to know you, and put an action plan in place that works for your specific habits and lifestyle!

This education and guidance is data-driven and medically proven to help, so call us today at 239-424-3120. A program navigator will be glad to help you find the right program. Some of these programs include:

  • Comprehensive Diabetes Classes
  • Individual Diabetes Consults
  • Diabetes Prevention Program for individuals with Prediabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes ClassesWeight Management Program
  • Disease Specific Nutrition Consults
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Program (complimentary)
  • Chronic Pain Self-Management Education Program (complimentary)

Besides meeting in person, we also provide virtual classes and guidance. We’re here for you, and we would be honored to help you on your healthcare journey!


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